America's national parks spring from an idea as radical as the Declaration of Independence: that the nation's most magnificent and sacred places should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone.
In this evocative narrative, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan delve into the history of the park idea, from the first sighting by white men in 1851 of the valley that would become Yosemite and the creation of the world's first national park at Yellowstone in 1872, through the most recent additions to a system that now encompasses nearly four hundred sites and 84 million acres.
The authors recount the adventures, mythmaking, and intense political battles behind the evolution of the park system, and the enduring ideals that fostered its growth. They capture the importance and splendors of the individual parks: from Haleakala in Hawaii to Acadia in Maine, from Denali in Alaska to the Everglades in Florida, from Glacier in Montana to Big Bend in Texas. And they introduce us to a diverse cast of compelling characters, both unsung heroes and famous figures, such as John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ansel Adams, who have been transformed by these special places and committed themselves to saving them from destruction so that the rest of us could be transformed as well.
The National Parks is a glorious celebration of an essential expression of American democracy.
©2009 Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns; (P)2009 Random House
Being the grandson of a park ranger, I greatly appreciated this long overdue in-depth examination of how the NPS and its various parks and monuments came into being.
While they gave credit where it was rightfully due for the most part, there are two instances here where they did not (hence my 4-star rating of an otherwise 5-star book):
1) The cover states "Read by the authors with a supporting cast". While Mr. Burns does read the preface and Mr. Duncan does read the afterword, the "supporting cast" does most of the reading, especially Danny Campbell. He definitely should be listed in the narrated by section, along with Ms. Farr, Mr. Ervin, Mr. Mayer, Mr. Peterson, and Ms. Raver.
2) In the book, we hear about George Melendez Wright's unsuccessful effort to turn Big Bend into an international park with Mexico, yet there is no mention of the successful effort that Rotarians in the U.S. and Canada made for creating the very first international park, uniting Canada's Waterton Lakes with Glacier. Given the amount of time Mr. Duncan has spent in Glacier, maybe this was an unintentional oversight, thinking it was always so?
I have a strong emotional attachment to America's National Parks. I am fortunate to live near both Yellowstone and Glacier and visit one, the other, or both on average about once a month. I loved the documentary series, and I loved this book. I listened to it while on a solo trip to Yellowstone - kept it on my "unread" shelf until I could do so. Our National Parks are a great treasure and this book, like the documentary series, delivers the history of the parks, those who helped preserve them, and those who, like me and my family, love them. If you enjoyed the documentary series, you'll enjoy this book - and it won't be repetitious.
Brian - The TechGooch
If there was one book about America's history that I would recommend to anyone to read or listen to, this would be the one. I enjoyed the Audiobook so much, I went out and purchased the actual Hard Cover so I could read it again, but this time with my own eyes. In addition, my father who is not too big into reading, listened to a chapter with me while working and really enjoyed the book. Now he keeps asking me about how the book went and ended. This is a must have book for anyone with a love for the outdoors and our National Parks.
Noticing some reviewers said that this book is boring and dull I would like to mention that this book is more of a history, development and experiences of those involved in the creation and protection of the parks. To me this book is great I have visited many of the most notorious parks Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Smoky etc. so when the book describes the experiences of those involved I can already picture the scenes and feel what the characters felt, perhaps that's why I failed to find it boring. For those that find the parks spiritual or something greater as I do they will perhaps feel themselves as of they were present during the story. Learning the history was interesting and makes me more grateful and appreciative for the parks and for those involved in the creation and protection. For those that love the parks or aspire to travel the parks and want to know the history I would recommend this book. If your looking for a travel guide this is not the book.
As stated in the beginning of the book, this piece was not intended to be a tour through every national park, detailing lodging accommodations and "must see" places. Rather, it reveals a seldomly told story of the heroes who fought through enormous adversity in their time to preserve some of this country's greatest natural wonders, based on the notion that they belong to and are meant to be experienced by all people. This work explains that behind every park there is an individual or a small group of individuals that sacrificed great amounts in order to see their beloved land preserved. It also preaches that we as Americans must constantly thwart those who threaten to exploit these parks for financial gain, because these entities will always exist.
For the authors who spent a decade preparing this masterpiece - Thank You! You have truly opened my eyes to appreciate these parks to a higher degree than I could have imagined!
To those thinking about listening to this book, you will truly be changed, and will never look at another National Park the same way.
I like history and outdoors. Figured this would be a great read. No such luck. Narrated as if every sentence ended with an exclamation point. Written as if each sentence was the best natural vista ever witnessed.
I still like well written histories.
The whole book. Could not get in more than 30 minutes even though stranded on an intercontinental flight.
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